Bad Dogs and Amazing Grace

Have you ever seen that movie Marley and Me?

It’s about this couple who adopts this yellow lab puppy.  The puppy is so adorable in all its soft, puppy fur and sweet brown eyes…and it grows up being what the author of the original book (based on a true story) called “the world’s worst dog.”

Turns out I can relate.

We took Charlie into our home when Ryan moved in last October.  Before that Charlie lived with Ryan’s parents, who took him in after he had bounced around a couple other homes.  We decided we would give Charlie his forever home, and were excited to give Cooper (our angel dog) a sibling.  What we knew of him was that he was a little dense, but incredibly sweet, and got along with Cooper great.

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What we have learned about Charlie since is that he insists on barking incessantly at squirrels, innocent passersby, our mailman, any delivery person, falling leaves, any sudden movements made by Ryan or myself, and I swear, should I think too loudly, he will resound his booming bark.  We have learned that we need to precariously monitor his water intake or else he will create small lakes on our floors.  He has intense bowel issues and needs to eat very specific (and expensive) dog food.  This will take away a touch of the smell, but the farts remain.  He is never allowed a bone or a treat or anything other than that food.  Try to give him scraps in my line of sight, I dare you.

_DSC0472<—I swear this is his farting face

Charlie is a nightmare on walks.  If he sees another dog he will growl so vehemently that he also begins breathing fire like a murderous dragon as he pulls me like a rag doll across the sidewalk.

He also has terrible allergies and licks his paw through the fur to his skin, causing massive sores.

So last night, Ryan and I thought it would be a brilliant idea if we took the dogs to a beautiful off-leash dog beach on Lake Michigan for a relaxing picnic and family time.

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From car to beach there’s a short hike on which they require dogs to be leashed, and before we even approached the beach we passed four dogs, and Charlie maintained his erratic supremacy for each.

As Cooper ran the beach freely with new sweet doggie friends, Charlie remained on the leash, but not without attempting to remove my shoulder from its socket and causing leash burns all over my hands.

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The relaxing evening I had planned was replaced with one of anxiety.  I constantly prayed that he would not latch his jaws around another dog’s neck.  I prayed for no blood.  I growled through my own clenched teeth, “I cannot stand him!”

At one point he freaked so intensely that in my retaliation I allowed my emotions to become physical and I smacked him…hard…several times.  “Feel better?” Ryan asked.

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I felt terrible, and guilty, and still so angry.

We went home and went to bed, me wallowing in the sadness of my bad dog ownership.  Until around 3am when I awoke to Charlie peeing in my closet.

The Devil knows how to ruin me.

Ry and I cleaning up a huge puddle of urine at 3am is not a pretty sight.  It was a lot of swearing and partial nudity, followed by apologies and jail time (for Charlie).

Did I mention that Charlie’s original name was, indeed, Marley?  After the “world’s worst dog”?  Fitting.

In all of Charlie’s ridiculousness, in his frustrating antics and infuriating behaviors and habits, I can still say that I love this dog.

I am consistently reminded of God’s grace with our goofy dog, because even when I want to throw in the towel with him, I often think about what would have become of me if God acted in the same way.  What if the One Who Saves would see my behavior time and time again and shake His head and give up on me?  What if He thought I’ll never get through to her, I’m done!  I’m taking her to the pound!

If there was no such thing as grace, I would be totally screwed, because let’s be real, I’ve peed in the good Lord’s closet many times.

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With Charlie, I’m reminded of the importance of forgiveness, not only with him, but with others in life and with myself.  If I’m incapable of moving on past his barking and his farts and his doggie dominance, how will I forgive those who hurt me, dominate me, or use words to bring me down?  How will I be able to see past my own giant flaws and be able to feel the warmth of God’s forgiveness?

I believe we would all be lost without grace…without forgiveness, and I hope Charlie is around for a long time to keep giving me those reminders.

To the cute blonde sunbathing quietly on my back deck, our little Charles Vader,

Cheers.

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Why I’m a Crazy Dog Lady For Life

Today is the day where we all take a look at ourselves and realize that we all have some serious sucking up to do.  Generally, Valentine’s Day is dedicated to those who are blissfully in love and have totally forgotten that they are so, and therefore, need a special day to remind themselves that they are, in fact, in a relationship, and they should probably do the annual nice thing for their significant other.

I like it because sometimes we need that reminder to do nice things for our loved ones, but I also despise it, because at the same time we totally should not need it at all.

My Valentine’s Day gift for Ryan was making him breakfast before he scurried off to class.  I do this for him every so often, but today was different because on behalf of Valentine’s Day I went out and bought an onion and spicy sausage to put in our scrambled eggs.  Love you babe, now don’t even think of breathing near me. 

Valentine’s Day for me, however, has a little more meaning, aside from the goopy lovey crap.  Today is my dog’s birthday.

Even writing it seems so stupid, because he is, in fact, a dog.  So let me tell you quickly and lovingly the story of Cooper.

I chose to “foster” Cooper on a random May morning when I still lived out West.  I frequently scoured Petfinder.com to weep over all the dogs who needed homes and then sulk with a glass (bottle) of wine because I was not at a time in my life where owning a dog was a good idea. The night before I met Cooper, I stumbled on a page featuring a litter of freaking-adorable-I-can’t-stop-squeaking puppies.  They were at a shelter two hours away.  Knowing I would never make that drive, I e-mailed the contact for more information.  I sent this late in the evening and she responded very quickly with “I’m actually fostering them in Wilson.  Feel free to stop by any time to see them.” 

Wilson was a ten minute drive.

Obviously, I went to see them the next morning with my roommate and his girlfriend and we took two puppies home with us to our apartment that was not at all pet friendly.  We snuck around for two weeks with our four month old puppies, but if you know anything about four month old Labrador mixes, you know that they are not at all easy to sneak around.  Nor are they easy in any other way.  Cute, eff yes.  Easy? Ha!

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My roommate and I would pass each other on the stairs at 3am, each holding a whiny puppy that needed to relieve himself.  There was one time when Cooper was so whiny during the night, and I was positive it was just because he wanted to cuddle with me and not be in his crate (since I had just let him out) when all of a sudden I heard an enormous fart with squishy spatters of poop smacking every single square inch of his crate. 

Our landlord eventually found out about our puppies and I had to stay with a friend for two weeks until our lease was up, meanwhile searching for the impossible – a pet friendly apartment.  When I did magically end up in one, Cooper formed a habit of destroying books and newspapers, digging through the trash, and if I were gone, he’d pee in the house. 

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He got hit by a car when he took off toward who knows what, leaving me to pay a $500 vet bill for what was maybe a sprained toe.  

He also had three more butt explosions, entirely destroying two separate crates.

I was so quickly in love with this dog, and he grew so attached to me that he formed separation anxiety, where, to this day, if I do not lock him in my room with all of my Hannah-smelling stuff whenever I leave, he will 100% take a crap in the house.

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(Let’s be real, I so don’t mind…and seeing as how I take him wherever I can, I must have a bit of this separation anxiety as well)

When I first decided to keep him, I had sincere hopes that he would hinder me from always going out at night, maybe slow down my party mode.  He did, but only a little.  I tried to use him as a tool to change myself immediately, when what I really had to do was make that decision myself, and it would not at all be immediate.  I put a big job on such a little dog.

I wasn’t immediately successful, but he loved me despite me hating myself. 

Like I said, he loves me to the point where he takes a crap in the house every single time I leave, because he misses me so much.  My boyfriend doesn’t even do that for me.

His furry, intrusive, obsessive love has had a profound impact on me.  Because despite his crazy bowels and his incessant habit to lick anything and everything, he is the best at cuddling, he doesn’t impose his beliefs or his unwanted criticism or advice, he is gentle beyond words (with dogs and babies, it’s the kind of cuteness you want to die from), and he lives to love.  Not many of us can say that.

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So happy 3rd birthday, my sweet little canine.  I’ll be that crazy dog lady any day for you.

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We all know who I’m raising my glass to today,

To the Coop dog

Cheers!

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